Immaculate gardens are a love of mine, so when we were visiting family in central Florida, I was beyond excited to visit a new place. Bok Tower Garden is everything I had hoped it would be: an amazing example of local flora. I could have easily spent several more hours just meandering, or sitting in one of the many benches, simply enjoying the wafting smells of the Magnolias or the songs of the birds.
Bok Tower isn’t just a lush semi-tropical garden though. It is also home to, you guessed it: Bok Tower. This 250- acre National Historic Landmark was built between 1921 and 1929 by Edward Bok. Bok was the editor for Ladies Home Journal and decided to build a garden on top of Iron Mountain after vacationing nearby with his wife. The literal “crowning jewel” of the garden is the Singing Tower, a 60-bell carillon tower with a marble and coquina facade. Marcus’ favorite part about the tower was the koi moat that surrounds the entire tower. Accessible by a small bridge guarded by a large iron door, the tower looks more like a romantic fairytale tower, or in Marcus’ case, a Dungeons and Dragons venue. I could imagine Rapunzel tossing down her magnificent golden hair from the top of the 205- foot tower. Even more magical is the concert that is put on daily, and the hourly chimes the tower plays.
The garden really feels less like a structured well-manicured place and is instead meandering and feels much more natural. I almost felt like I was just walking about it the woods. The gardens are also home to the Pinewood Estate. This was the Mediterranean style home built by C. Austin Buck in the 1930’s. The home has been revived and you can take a tour daily, with a fee. We were unable to visit the inside of the house as we left before touring hours began, but we did walk around the estate and peer in a few windows. It’s always fascinating to me to see a glimpse of the lifestyle of the rich and famous of times gone by.
I think my favorite part of the garden visit were all of the Magnolias and Azaleas that were currently in bloom. Marcus liked that the gardens were home to many Ingresse portals which kept him searching for interesting parts of the park. Our visit was in early February, which for Florida is the very beginning of Spring. We were told that in the late spring and summer months the gardens are filled with flowers and beautiful colors. I imagine butterfly time here is also an amazing event.
Bok Tower garden is open 365 days a year, and general admission is $12 for adults, $3 for children. Admission tickets for the Estate can be purchased as a combo ticket for $18 for the house and gardens. February through mid March is said to be peak-bloom season for the Azaleas and Camellias. There are special concert events held in the gardens as well as weddings, so a Saturday might not yield the best photos of the tower unless you want to include a few wedding guests!
Overall, I loved it here. It is a definite toss-up as to whether Bok Tower Gardens or Universal Studios was the day-trip highlight of our Florida visit. If you happen to be in the Lake Wales area, we strongly recommend a trip here!